It’s easy to be a touch depressed with the Memorial Day holiday weekend, largely considered the official kickoff to summer, in the books.
The backyard barbecues, trips to the beach and an extra day of imbibing in the beautiful weather are in the rear-view mirror, and all that’s left is the tired trudging back to work and the anticipation of four searing months of summer heat (better than a blizzard, though, right?).
But the steamy conditions outside can only be matched by the season’s scorching number one show. That’s right, turn those frowns upside down and shake off any lingering spring finale hangovers (or any other type that might be dragging you down), because fans know that the summer doesn’t really begin until the nation’s wildest talent show rears its curly-haired, bespectacled head.
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A Family Reunion
Yes, folks, America’s Got Talent is back for a 10th season, with the entire family returning sans one celebrity wife to guide us through 16-ish weeks of grueling auditions, performances and live shows until we crown yet another maybe-success story that currently has a roughly 0.5 in nine chance of being a sort-of household name. (Looking at you, Terry Fator.)
Last year, Mat Franco — currently mystifying at the LINQ Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas — became the first magician to take the title. What type of act is next in line for coronation?
So join us at BuddyTV as we tag team another quest to find America’s craziest and most entertaining act. Nick Cannon, a mere three days my elder, might be behind the wheel, but Howard Stern plots the course. I am curious, though, if the now-single host will have a little extra pep in his step since being reintroduced into the dating pool. He is, after all, one of the most underrated reality show hosts in the biz.
“America’s Judge” is once again joined by cohorts Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel, though there are a number of changes in the works to mark the 10th anniversary. They include an enhanced Golden Buzzer (which makes sense, seeing as how it’s only been used twice, on the wildly disappointing Dustin’s Dojo and Hudson Brothers), more extreme acts, a new Boot Camp format and a two-hour series retrospective. And I can only assume an appearance by the Hof.
So without further adieu, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from the first audition show of the season.
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The first televised acts comes out of the Newark Performing Arts Center in New Jersey, and I appreciate Howie calling out the Garden State instead of referring to the audience as “New York City.” This year, the Golden Buzzer sends an act directly through to the live shows, so it carries even more weight.
Eight-year-old Noah and 7-year-old Elin are not only a boy-girl dancing duo, they’re also best friends, though she’s quick to point out that they’re not boyfriend and girlfriend because that’s gross. They refer to Howie as “Baldy” backstage, then kick off the season with a rocking hip-hop dance to M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” It’s mostly energetic stomping, but they’re adorable and going through with four yeses.
Will, Caleb and Tyler are an awkward-looking group of everyday 21-year-old guys who call themselves Triple Threat. They were all injured on the high school football team at the same time, so they started singing. And one of them is still on crutches. They’re beautifully nerdy and look like they’ll be terrible, so naturally they have the crowd on its collective feet in seconds. They’re the definition of what this show is all about.
Puppet Ira is a balding 32-year-old puppet singer from Los Angeles, and his puppet mom drives him to the audition to perform for Mel B., who he first professes his love for before launching into a beautiful rendition of “You are So Beautiful (Mel B.).” The shtick is all pretty hilarious, and I’m interested to see how the act plays out. Mel B. rewards Ira with a kiss, and it’s three yeses and a surprising no from the Spice Girl, who apparently does not want to be his lover and which breaks Ira’s little cotton heart. But we’ll see him again, and maybe he’ll turn his affections to Heidi, who will at least appreciate it. And if you were confused about any of that, yes, Ira is an actual puppet.
Chris Jones is a hypnotist from Chicago who plays mostly colleges, and he’s incorporating known-germaphobe Howie Mandel into his routine. It’s slow and boring as it builds, but it culminates in him hypnotizing Howie into shaking hands with people under the guise of them wearing tiny imaginary gloves. There’s also some girl in the audience who falls asleep whenever Howie does. Chris reminds me very much of last season’s Smoothini, though hopefully with a better and more entertaining outcome.
Adonis Crash Boom is an aerialist dancer who flips off stage, then gets introduced in reverse.
The members of Showproject are eastern European national team members who mix gymnastics with strongman elements, and their goal is to get their own Vegas show. Performing shirtless in jeans gets the ladies’ motors running, and then it’s high-level group gymnastics with parallel bars and a trampoline. Howard dubs them contenders.
A large group of dancers dressed like ninjas with a foreign-sounding name (later confirmed as Chapkis Dance Family) also move on, as do a little girl and her dad who do acrobatics and contortion (Sergey and Sasha), including her spinning while inverted on top of his head.
Extreme Trick and Tumbling have only been together for two days, but that was enough time to put together a killer flipping routine.
Johnny Shelton performs an original song that he wrote for his son, who passed away on his fifth birthday from a lymph-node cancer. He hopes spreading it will help fill the hole in his chest and his life, and whether it does or not, it captivates and moves everyone listening. There’s too many tears in the house to be critical of the song in any capacity, so we’ll just wait and see what he’s got when the song isn’t based on the backstory.
Piff the Magic Dragon is a card magician who claims to be a $1 million act, despite the fact that his dragon costume probably cost $28. He actually tells a bunch of quality jokes before a pretty pedestrian trick, but he’s funnier than he is magical. He even eats a banana while being judged because “dragons love snacks.”
Siro-A is a group of dancers who interact with their digital backgrounds in innovative ways, and it’s basically the work of season 8 winner Kenichi Ebina done in group form. It’s much better than most of the interactive dancers we’ve seen over the years, and while I don’t know if it’s technically on Kenichi’s level, the visual is so spectacular that the eye is distracted from any imperfections.
Samantha Hess is a professional cuddler, because that’s apparently a thing that can make you famous. She describes the benefits of snuggling and how it all started with her divorce, then enlists Nick to show off all the positions. Then Howard joins in, followed by Heidi, Howie and Mel for an unprecedented five-way snug, likely the first of its kind on network television. I just had to cut and paste this from the “bad” section, though, because everyone but Howard inexplicably puts her through.
A young man named Drew Lynch nabs the pimp spot, due to his softball throat injury that prompted a severe stutter. He was bitter at first, but for the last four years, he’s been doing stand-up comedy as a coping mechanism. Back in the day, he wouldn’t have been friends with the person he is now, and he feels responsible for the emotional damage he may have inflicted in his jerkier days. And his girlfriend is awesome.
His routine is very Josh Blue-esque, and he gets out three jokes, the first of which is hilarious. But the other two are just okay and don’t live up to his banter, which is also great. Still, it’s your classic case of inspirational backstory trumping material, and Howie pounds on the Golden Buzzer and sends Drew through to the live shows. The potential is certainly there, and it’s a wonderful and emotional moment to cap off the premiere.
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Well, it took 85+ minutes to get to the rejects, which might be a record, but cue the montage. And it’s fitting that it comes immediately after a commercial for a drug that has fatal diarrhea as a potential side effect.
That’s followed by a family of four who dives onto a giant-sized “whoopee cushion of doom.”
Then there’s the knife-thrower who can’t get his knives to stick on the board and nearly falls off his tight-rope wire.
And then there’s Sexy Baby, which is a man wearing a giant and terrifying baby head in addition to a naked muscle suit who dances around. We don’t need to speak of Sexy Baby ever again.
To dispel the rumors that there is beef between Howard and Nick, Howard suggests they both submit to a lie detector test. Nick agrees but only if he can ask the same questions back to Howard. So they do like each other, but we learn more as well.
— They both have passed wind in front of contestants.
— Howard finds Heidi’s accent irritating.
— Nick finds Mel B.’s accent irritating.
— Nick enjoys looking at himself naked.
— Howard does not enjoy looking at himself naked.
— Nick’s favorite judge is Howie Mandel.
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Season 10 is officially up and running, and for me, the standouts were the ones I didn’t expect to be good, with Puppet Ira, Triple Threat and Piff the Magic Dragon being the most surprising. Johnny and Drew have the emotional market cornered, and Siro-A will have to put together some seriously creative performances to stay fresh, but all are contenders.
Who were your favorites, and can you believe the cuddler made it through? I always appreciate when they show fewer of the bad performers, especially considering how many of them sadly think they’re worth a million bucks.
But the audition road is long, and a great first impression isn’t always indicative of future successes (see Smoothini and those opera ladies from last season). So there are still many acts we need to see before Boot Camp, but after just one episode, do any of these acts have what it takes to last?
You can watch America’s Got Talent every Tuesday at 8pm on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)